The process of gatekeeping has gone hand in hand with journalism for some time now. Because journalists are often present where events are taking place, it has become their responsibility to determine what is significant enough to be considered newsworthy. Journalists have traditionally played the critical role of hand selecting the news, but as time has passed and technology has become more advanced the public has become more involved in not only consumption, but production and distribution of news.
It seems that social media has payed a significant and defining role in the increase of citizen journalism given its ability to broadcast a message, regardless of accuracy, to millions in mere seconds. In addition to social media sites, professional news sites have begun to incorporate citizen journalism into their distribution of the news, challenging the traditional role of journalists as gatekeepers. The addition of the Citizen Journalist webpage to the NBC News website is an excellent example of the convergence of traditional and citizen journalism.
NBC News is a highly respected and widely viewed news source that has begun to incorporate citizen content production into its production of the news by allowing people from anywhere in the world to “tell their stories” through the submission of photographs and written content. To share content, all citizens need to do is send an e-mail submission to MSNBC. These submissions are then filtered by NBC and reproduced as stories on the “Citizen Journalist on NBC News” webpage.
In August 2013 NBC acquired a new citizen journalism company called Stringwire. Stringwire will allow citizen journalists to submit video footage of breaking news stories to NBC News, providing readers instant access to user generated video in the incidence of an important event anywhere in the world. Just as the photos and stories submitted to NBC are under the editorial control of the network, these videos are reviewed before being released to the public for live streaming. NBC hopes that this connection with Stringwire will help drive citizen journalism.
As of now, the content on the “Citizen Journalist on NBC News” webpage exists somewhere between significant world events such as the Middle Eastern conflict and interest based stories discussing things such as “wedding day jitters.” The majority of the articles consist of individual reactions to these various topics. Deviation from the types of stories that have traditionally been considered news toward a less serious and more opinion based focus is a risk run by all citizen journalism websites. It seems that NBC is hoping its Partnership with Stringwire will allow for a more objective view of the world from citizen journalists, given that it will display real video footage of actual events, not just people’s opinions about them.
Although citizen journalists are able to participate in sharing their stories on the NBC news website, they maintain a role more similar to that of a gatewatcher than a gatekeeper. These citizen journalists are able to sift through the many events and happenings around the world and express their opinions about them, however publishing authority still remains with the NBC editorial staff. Many new citizen journalism websites allow anyone to post an unedited news story, allowing gatewatching to replace gatekeeping. NBC News, at least for the time being, maintains a separation between stories shared by citizens and traditional news that is carefully selected by gatekeeping journalists.